What Is an Immunoglobulin Test?
This test checks the amount of certain antibodies called immunoglobulins in your body.
Antibodies are proteins that your immune cells make to fight off bacteria, viruses, and other harmful invaders. The immunoglobulin test can show whether there’s a problem with your immune system.
Some conditions cause your body to make too many or too few immunoglobulins.
Types of Immunoglobulin
Your body makes a few different types of immunoglobulin antibodies, including these:
Immunoglobulin A: IgA antibodies are found in the mucous membranes of the lungs, sinuses, stomach, and intestines. They’re also in fluids these membranes produce, like saliva and tears, as well as in the blood.
Immunoglobulin G: IgG is the most common type of antibody in your blood and other body fluids. These antibodies protect you against infection by “remembering” which germs you’ve been exposed to before.
If those germs come back, your immune system knows to attack them. Your doctor can test for IgG to figure out whether you’ve been infected by certain kinds of bacteria or virus.
Immunoglobulin M: Your body makes IgM antibodies when you are first infected with new bacteria or other germs.
They are your body’s first line of defense against infections. When your body senses an invader, your IgM level will rise for a short time. It will then begin to drop as your IgG level kicks in and increases to protect you long-term.
Immunoglobulin E: Your body makes IgE antibodies when it overreacts to substances that aren’t harmful, such as pollen or pet dander. Your doctor will likely measure your IgE levels if you have a blood test to check for allergies
Why and when to test Immunoglobulin Test?
Your doctor might order an immunoglobulin test if you get a lot of infections — especially infections of the sinuses, lungs, stomach, or intestines.
She may also order the test if you have:
- Diarrhea that doesn’t go away
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fevers that can’t be explained by another cause
- Skin rashes
- Sickness after traveling
- HIV/AIDS or multiple myeloma (a type of cancer), or another condition that needs to be monitored
Other tests with Immunoglobulin
Depending on result of Immunoglobulin test, the doctor might need to do other tests, such as a:
If your immunoglobulin level is high, it might be caused by:
- Chronic infections
- An autoimmune disorder that makes your immune system overreact, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or celiac disease
- Liver disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Cancer, such as multiple myeloma, lymphoma, or leukemia
Low levels of immunoglobulins mean your immune system isn’t working as well as it should. This can be caused by:
- Medicines that weaken your immune system, such as steroids
- Diabetes complications
- Kidney disease or kidney failure
- A weakened immune system that you were born with or developed (as with HIV/AIDS)
Just because your immunoglobulin level is high or low doesn’t mean you have one of these conditions.
Each person’s test can differ based on the method the lab uses to check the results. Talk to your doctor about your test results, and find out what you should do next.
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